given on Sunday, October 21, 2012
Okay, so the question, “How solid is your foundation?” may seem unlikely for a Sunday morning sermon, especially since around here foundations are made of concrete. But consider how solid your faith foundation would be if it is made of concrete. Would it be solid enough to withstand generation after generation after generation—as many as 4,000 years worth of generations?
Stopping to consider just how strong concrete really is, one begins to realize that it, too, is another man-made product that is a composite of rock, sand, and water. The combination can be made poorly and can deteriorate over the years. Concrete can even crumble simply by walking or driving over it repeatedly. It is not intended to last an eternity.
Therefore, let’s go back to the original question: How solid is your foundation? Is your faith foundation built on rock or is it built on quicksand? What has your foundation faced which proves to you and to others that your foundation is solid? How do you explain to others what your faith foundation is? What evidence would you share with others about the importance of a faith foundation?
These questions started popping up in my brain when I started hearing the line from the hymn: “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” And that line surfaced because the idea of seeing Elephant Rocks came up this weekend. I simply could not shake it off: “. . . on Christ the solid rock I stand . . .”
I expect many of you have traveled to Elephant Rocks State Park on the east side of the state. It had been many, many years—decades—since I had been there and now this summer I have seen them and climbed on them not just once, but twice. These rocks make my stature seem so tiny, but the rocks also inspire me, strengthen me, and are awe-inspiring.
Looking into a concordance, there are eleven listings for rocks. Of those eleven, eight are in the Old Testament and just three are in the New Testament. Three of the verses are in Psalms alone, and only one of the three in the New Testament is in a letter of Paul’s while two are in the gospel of Matthew. The significance of the rock relies on the definition of rock as used in the Bible: a large stone or cliff; symbolic of shelter and safety. (The list of verses is provided on the bulletin: Genesis 49:24, Exodus 17:6, Psalms 19:14, 40:2; 61:2, Isaiah 26:4, 51:1, Daniel 2:34, Matthew 7:24, 16:18, and Romans 9:33.)
As I read through the various ‘rock’ references, I can trace the foundation of the Christian church, too. The very beginning is in Genesis 49:24:
The archers with malice attacked,
shooting their hate-tipped arrows;
But he held steady under fire,
his bow firm, his arms limber,
With the backing of the Champion of Jacob,
the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.
The God of your father—may he help you!
And may The Strong God—may he give you his blessings,
on the brow of the one consecrated among his brothers.
Jacob was elderly and he wanted to provide his sons with an understanding of God’s relationship to himself and his family. For Jacob, the rock serves as foundation for his faith.
Proceeding through the Old Testament, another reference in Exodus uses the rock imagery to demonstrate how God can perform miracles. This verse, Exodus 17:6, Moses is told to strike the rock with his staff and water will rush from it so the Israelites could have the water they so desperately needed.
When looking through the three psalms that include the reference to a rock, the metaphor becomes clearer. In Psalm 19:14, the psalmist simply makes the connection so clearly: The Lord, my Rock. . . Then in Psalm 40, the opening states:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned tome and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in God.
The metaphor of the rock as a foundation for our faith becomes so evident in these three verses. God made us and he stood us on a rock. God is our foundation, God is a rock, and so with faith in God, our foundation is rock solid. Again, I ask, how strong is your faith foundation?
In Psalm 61, two different references are made to the metaphor of God is the Rock, the solid foundation on which we can depend:
God, listen to my cry;
pay attention to my prayer!
2 When my heart is weak,
I cry out to you from the very ends of the earth.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I am
3 because you have been my refuge,
a tower of strength in the face of the enemy.
4 Please let me live in your tent forever!
Please let me take refuge
in the shelter of your wings! Selah
5 Because you, God, have heard my promises;
you’ve given me[a] the same possession
as those who honor your name.
6 Add days to the king’s life!
Let his years extend for many generations!
7 Let him be enthroned forever before God!
Make it so love and faithfulness watch over him!
8 Then I will sing praises to your name forever,
and I will do what I promised every single day.
As we continue along our faith journey, we are tested. The challenges of life in the 21st century really are not so different as those when David was writing the psalms. With a rock solid foundation, we face the tough times knowing that we have God who guides us and supports us. Is your foundation solid enough to help others seeking answers in managing difficulties in their life?
The verses in Isaiah and Daniel continue to emphasize the metaphor of God, the Rock. There is little doubt that the primary Jewish leaders of the Old Testament knew that faith in God was essential to remaining strong despite the many, many trials they experienced. The leaders did everything they could to assure the Israelites to remain solid in their faith. Is your foundation as solid as the ancient leaders—so solid that your can convince others God is like a rock for us?
In Matthew 7, Jesus teaches about the importance of building on rock rather than on sand. In verses 24-25 it states:
. . . every one who hears these words of mine and puts them into practices is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. . . . “
In the hymn, “My Hope Is Built”, those words connect God to Christ as being one in the same—both are the Rock of our faith foundation. It repeats the same lesson as this one in Matthew.
Later in Matthew, as Jesus is preparing the disciples for their commission, he repeats how solid their faith foundation is that it is the rock on which the church will be built: “. . . And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” The disciples were to be the foundation of the New Covenant, the new church. Their faith was as strong as a rock, too. Is the foundation of our church today built on the Rock?
Even Paul knew the significance of the metaphor of the Rock. In his letter to the Romans, he provides the final reference—according to the concordance—of how God is the Rock, the foundation of our faith. Paul tells the new Christians in Rome that the Israelites still did not believe in Christ as the Son of God who established a new covenant with his children:
. . . but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” As it is written:
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
The stumbling stone was Jesus. God sent him to strengthen our faith, and those who did not understand fell. The Rock is God. Is your faith built on the rock foundation or the sand?
Our hope is built on one foundation and that foundation is God. He sent his son, who also is referred to as a stone. If we believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God, then we are solid in our faith. This week, stop and think about how life has tested your foundation and how you have managed. God has been with you, is with you, and will always be with you. The Elephant Rocks that are so solid, so huge, and so beautiful serve as a visual reminder of how solid God is in our lives. Ask yourself whether your foundation is strong enough to convince others that they must trust in God as their foundation, too.
Dear God, my Rock and my Salvation,
Thank you for the words of the scripture
that tell us over and over,
generation after generation,
how faith as solid as a rock
leads us to manage
all the trials and tribulations
in our lives.
Thank you for the words of hymns
that reassure us of the Church’s
solidarity when built on rock
rather than sand; and the Church
will remain now and forever
to continue making disciples of Christ
for the transformation of the world.
May we stand on solid rock as we face
the demands of the world
as we seek ways to strengthen
our faith foundation. –Amen.